In Liberace's memory

By Roddy Lumsden

First comes love… Because you knew the backroom boys
keep the chains oiled, the theatre secretary keeps the boss

in line, the doorman sees to the little things that matter,
you learned their names, asked after kids and mothers,

remembered that Larry who drew up contracts in Boston
shared your taste for iced buns, that Heidelmann’s assistant

was Shula and not Sheila and stored all this information
there beneath your perfect bouffant, in perfect fashion.

Old Kittenish on the Keys, they called you, while Whisper
magazine claimed all your hormones were in your fingers,

fingers that made you a half-decent mid-West Paderewski,
an eighty-eight key, two thousand tune jukebox all ready

inside your marcelled mind, and room still for flashbacks
of all those muscled tricks, the Hilton, custom grands, rocks

dripping from a silk three-piece, skinflicks, the Phantom
5 silver Rolls Royce you had shipped back from London

where The Queen requested to touch your ‘virgin fox’
fur train and watched you showboat from the royal box;

everywhere you made it – and everywhere you made it
into: the motor-homes and jump-rope songs, Top Secret,

Hush and Private Lives, the pick-up trucks of Mexicans
you cruised in parking lots, a top at the top, the American

dream you dreamed in piano-shaped beds, of chandeliers
and chauffeurs, cascades of toy dogs down velveteen stairs,

and every year a Vegas year, from the rhinestone footlights
of the Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee-famous, to late headlights

frisking Camellia Street and Valley Vista Boulevard
glistening. You never did forget yourself – not one word.

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